By Eric Krell
Consultants face two hurdles in retirement: working too little or working too much. “Going from deep involvement and a lot of activity to relaxing and playing golf is really not a good idea, mentally or physically,” says Oliver Wyman co-founder Bill Wyman, who retired from his firm in 1995. “I think you need to remain involved and maintain a drive to achieve in order to continue to thrive. ... The challenge is how to do the right amount of that.”
Wyman’s quest for retirement-life balance involves serving as a counselor to CEOs, a director on several corporate and nonprofit boards and
leading Wyman Worldwide Health Partners, which has greatly improved the quality of primary care tens of thousands of Rwandans receive in rural parts of the East African country.
Wyman’s retirement began with the same sort of introspection that first propelled him into consulting following Colgate, naval service and Harvard Business School. Acting on a recommendation by a career-management author, Wyman filled 40 notebook pages with memories of activities that he liked and disliked throughout his young life. A clear pattern emerged. “I noted what I liked and compared these interests with jobs that were available,” he recalls. “Consulting pretty much fell out as the clear winner.”
For Wyman, the profession remained that way for 30-plus years. “I was always happy in consulting,” he emphasizes. He began his career with the commercial side of Booz Allen Hamilton and was quickly elected partner. Wyman later became the head of all North American management consulting for BAH and a member of the management committee. In 1984, after 20 years with Booz, he and colleague Alex Oliver left the firm to launch their own highly successful consultancy, Oliver Wyman.
After a decade at the helm, Wyman felt the need for another round of introspection. At his wife’s urging, he participated in a Harvard program designed for professionals approaching retirement.
One exercise captivated Wyman. The class was given colored markers and an easel to diagram their lives. “Mine was a two-dimensional graph,” he recalls. “And I said to myself, ‘You’ve taken all of the emotion out of your life.’ It changed the way I looked at things. I said, ‘I’m going to retire, and I’m going to start living a different life.’”
And that’s just what he did. Since then he has served on 18 different corporate, private equity and non-profit boards, including the board of the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center.
The Dartmouth experience served as a useful primer for another endeavor: About six years ago, while his wife was working to help preserve the habitat of mountain gorillas in East Africa, she became interested in helping Rwandan people enduring difficult conditions. Wyman helped her research methods to provide the most effective support possible, and they settled on improving the delivery of primary health care in rural parts of the country. More research ensued, and they settled on a model, which the Rwandan government learned about. Two years ago it asked Wyman Worldwide Health Partners (http://wwhps.org
) to manage a health clinic that serves 17,000 Rwandans.
The model “turned out to be a huge success, and the government asked us to take over a second clinic covering an additional 30,000 people,” Wyman reports. “We’re at the point that we have a pretty good model for how to deliver healthcare in rural areas.”
He also has an idea of how to spend retirement: pursuing challenging activities that bring him pleasure while finding ways to bring hope to people’s lives.
For more on the Wyman Worldwide Health Partners story, visit www.clinicsrising.com